The World of ‘Brief Encounter’
My spotlight now moves on from St Trinians to one of our most popular films – ‘Brief Encounter’ starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard, as if you needed telling. Who doesn’t love this festival of stiff upper lips among the steam trains? I have loved it for many years and am now going to indulge myself by doing some digging around this classic. I’ll be investigating some historical points thrown up by the film; the people involved in making it, and probably poking a bit of fun too. Because that’s how we British roll, if we love something passionately, we hide our embarrassing feelings by sending up the object of our affections. For the best ever ‘Brief Encounter’ send up, have a look at this Victoria Wood sketch on You Tube.
But now, to work. Let us have a look at what was happening in the news when ‘Brief Encounter’ was released on 26th November, 1945. What a year that was, the end of the war in Europe, then Japan and a landslide election victory for Clement Attlee’s Labour Government. Rationing though – that wasn’t going away anytime soon. But I had a look in the British Newspaper Archive to find out what the papers were reporting on the very same day that the film was released.
The Daily Mirror was obsessing about the striking gas workers in London. Terms were being discussed with the trade union but in the meantime there was a bread shortage because the gas ovens used by bakers were out of action. The black-out caused by the gas lamps not working had led to a woman having her bag snatched in Notting Hill. Memories of the Blitz for everyone, there. Also reminiscent of the war years was a report of a plane crash near Edale in the Peak District. “Bomber Ace” R D Speare was killed.
De-mobilisation of troops was still a major issue. Forces psychologists were alleging that an alarming number of service personnel were “getting a discharge on mental grounds by conscious or unconscious fooling of medical officers.” I expect a lot of men were desperate to get home.
The Daily Herald mentioned a memorial service that had been held at Deptford Town Hall, to mark the V2 rocket attack that had killed 140 one year previously. The war was over, but the scars were still very raw.
I also had a look at the Manchester Evening News – the station scenes in ‘Brief Encounter’ had been filmed in Carnforth, Lancashire – so I thought I would go a bit more local. The front page reported rather a relevant incident. Apparently, a father and his two sons from Chester had been remanded in custody for breaking into a cinema. They stole two axes.
Other titbits included praise for Lancashire miners as they had increased their output despite having fewer men working in this industry – but there was a desperate call for more fire fighters. It seems that people wanted to get out of the forces and the jobs were there waiting for them…but good old bureaucracy was getting in the way.
This then, was the world of ‘Brief Encounter’, one that still needed a good helping of escapism despite the positive developments of the past 12 months. Keep checking the blog for more insights into the world according to Milford Junction.
My story collection ‘Roads to Corryvrekan’ is set in the latter part of 1945 – have a look HERE